A group of 15 Republican senators insisted on Thursday that President Obama withdraw the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary, the latest move in a contentious battle to block the confirmation of their former colleague.
But even as Republican senators tried to throw up another obstacle, Senate Democrats said they were pushing ahead with plans to hold a final up-or-down vote on the nomination no later than Wednesday.
Should that vote proceed as planned, Mr. Hagel’s confirmation appears assured. Several Republicans have said that they intend to drop their attempts to filibuster the nomination.
Whether they’ll cop to it or not, Republicans are currently engaged in a filibuster of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Defense secretary.
Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma’s conservative senior senator, has attempted to place a hold on Hagel’s nomination. Lindsey Graham has indicated his willingness to do the same. Generally, such requests are granted as a courtesy by the majority leader, but Harry Reid has opted not to honor them in this case and has gone ahead and filed a cloture motion. Thus, 60 votes will be required for there to be a simple up/down vote on the nomination. As Jonathan Bernstein writes, there is no way to call this anything but a filibuster.
“What a shame,” Reid lamented after filing his motion on Wednesday. “That’s the way it is.”
Reid may simply have been speaking as a White House ally there, but he’s also a Senate institutionalist, one who - to the consternation of many progressives activists - balked at an effort last month to water down the chamber’s filibuster rules. Reid clearly believes in the unique individual prerogatives that the Senate grants its members and is loath to break with tradition and create new procedural rules and precedents - especially if they might come back to bite his party the next time it’s in the minority. From an institutionalist’s standpoint, what’s happening now with the Hagel nomination is very troubling.
Simply put, we’re in uncharted territory. Look at it this way: Hagel is on course to be the first Pentagon nominee and only the third Cabinet nominee ever to face a 60-vote requirement for confirmation. But even that understates it, because the other two - C. William Verity and Dirk Kempthorne - weren’t up against serious filibusters.
Misjudging Chuck Hagel
What American Jews or Israelis think about Chuck Hagel’s views on Israel shouldn’t be the primary criterion to judge his nomination for secretary of Defense.
Jews worry for a living. Their dark history and, in the case of American Jews, their legitimate concerns about the security of the state of Israel impel them to do so.
But sometimes those concerns are overblown and reflect a kind of collective cosmic oy vey that gets in the way of sound and rational judgment.
Such is the case in the matter of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be President Obama’s next secretary of Defense.
Some of the comments attributed to Hagel about lobbies, Israel and the like come from an interview he gave me for my last book about American Middle East policy, particularly his use of the term “Jewish lobby.”
Hagel has said many things about Iran sanctions, Hamas, Syria and Hezbollah, which his opponents have seized upon. Some are out of sync with current U.S. policy. These and other issues are matters that will and should be explored during confirmation hearings.
But the notion that the views Hagel has on Israel — admittedly independent given the norms in Congress — should be grounds to attack him as an anti-Semite, let alone an enemy of the Jewish state, who is unfit and unqualified to serve as Defense secretary is wrong and unfair, not to mention harmful to the credibility of those who hold that view. And here’s why.
President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, two potentially controversial picks for his second-term national security team.
Hagel, even before being nominated, has faced tough criticism from congressional Republicans who say the former GOP senator is anti-Israel and soft on Iran. And Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew from consideration for the spy agency’s top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to enhanced interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration.
Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Obama will announce both nominations at a White House event Monday afternoon.
Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel is a contrarian Republican moderate and decorated Vietnam combat veteran who is likely to support a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
As President Barack Obama’s top candidate for defense secretary, Hagel has another credential important to the president: a personal relationship with Obama, forged when they were in the Senate and strengthened during overseas trips they took together.
Hagel, 66, emerged last week as the front-runner for the Pentagon’s top job, four years after leaving behind a Senate career in which he carved out a reputation as an independent thinker and blunt speaker.
Wounded during the Vietnam War, Hagel backed the Iraq war, but later became a fierce and credible critic of the Bush administration’s war policies, making routine trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. He opposed President George W. Bush’s plan to send an additional 30,000 troops into Iraq — a move that has been credited with stabilizing the chaotic country — as “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it’s carried out.”
While Hagel supported the Afghanistan war resolution, over time he has become more critical of the decade-plus conflict, with its complex nation-building effort.
Often seeing the Afghan war through the lens of his service in Vietnam, Hagel has declared that militaries are “built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations.” In a radio interview this year, he spoke broadly of the need for greater diplomacy as the appropriate path in Afghanistan, noting that “the American people want out” of the war.
President Obama is considering asking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve as his next defense secretary, part of an extensive rearrangement of his national security team that will include a permanent replacement for former CIA director David H. Petraeus.
Although Kerry is thought to covet the job of secretary of state, senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
John O. Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, is a leading contender for the CIA job if he wants it, officials said. If Brennan goes ahead with his plan to leave government, Michael J. Morell, the agency’s acting director, is the prohibitive favorite to take over permanently. Officials cautioned that the White House discussions are still in the early stages and that no decisions have been made.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta played down concerns Tuesday about a rift between Egypt’s newly elected president and its military chief following a brief stopover in Cairo aimed at giving senior U.S. officials a better sense of how the country’s first Islamist administration will govern.
The recent election of President Mohamed Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has provoked unease among secular Egyptians, the military and Egyptian Christians, who worry that the country’s Islamists will upend a long tradition of secular rule.
“I was convinced that President Morsi is his own man, and that he is the president of all the Egyptian people,” Panetta told reporters.
The United States maintains a close relationship with the Egyptian military, which receives about $1.3 billion annually in U.S aid, and is eager to maintain those ties as it prods the ruling military council to turn power over to the new government, despite its lingering wariness. Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the council’s head, recently vowed not to let Egypt fall to a “certain group.”
Panetta met with Tantawi earlier in the day and then was accompanied by the military leader to the presidential palace, where they met jointly with Morsi. “It is my view, based on what I have seen, that President Morsi and Field Marshal Tantawi have a very good relationship and are working together towards the same ends,” the U.S. defense secretary said.